Animal Rights Essay


David Sztybel’s paper on animal rights law describes the differences between the fundamentalist and the pragmatist perspective in answering the dilemma of animal rights. Sztybel argues that a pragmatist perspective is more effective when dealing with animal rights, in an ethical and reasonable sense. He does not renounce, however, that a fundamentalist position could be effective in a later period in time when reforms and laws have been established and have reached a certain level of progress for animals (Sztybel, 2007).

            Animal rights fundamentalists insist that animal rights is absolute and a basic moral principle (Sztybel, 2007). This indicates that fundamentalists claim rightful laws that will protect animals and abolish speciesist discrimination that causes suffering on the animals’ part. There are two types of fundamentalists, holistic and partitive. Holistic fundamentalists demand perfect and full animal rights while partitive fundamentalists, like Francoine, argue that proto-rights, or a part of the full rights, need to be established first before perfect rights are achieved. Animal rights pragmatists argue that actions should be taken for sentient beings alone and not for abstract principles such as rights. This allows a distinction between pragmatism and utilitarianism, which is strongly associated in a philosophical perspective.

            Sztybel also distinguishes long-term efficacy between short-term efficacy to provide further distinction between the two perspectives. Short-term effectiveness means the capacity of a goal to be successful in achieving the best possible result while pursuing a long-term goal (Sztybel, 2007). This indicates that a short-term goal should not forego of a long-term goal. It just focuses more on yielding immediate best results that will aid in the pursuance of the long-term goal. Long-term effectiveness, on the other hand, is the capacity of a goal to establish itself the best possible results that comes from establishing order from the changes that is needed to reach the goal. Sztybel used Sweden’s emerging culture of banning animal exploitation as an example for this. Sweden has banned the use of antibiotics and farrowing crates resulting to more room space, better surroundings, more time outside of their stalls and better mental stimulation through the use of toys. Sweden has also banned battery cages and the leg-hold trap, and has started to air their intentions of banning fur farms. This indicates that, slowly, Sweden is developing a culture of animal kindness and outlawing animal exploitation by targeting specific issues first. This is to prepare their society in openly accepting the idea of animal welfare. This is effective, in the sense, that it creates awareness for the people and develops a culture of animal kindness that is needed to establish a culture without animal exploitation.

Ethical Claim

            The key aspects of Sztybel’s ethical claim are: dilemma reasoning and ultimate moral right. He argues that there is no dilemma in the long-term goal but when to short-term goals, there is much to talk about. Sztybel (2007) enumerates five important legislative options:

No change in law.
Cosmetic changes that do not significantly or even negatively affect animal welfare
Suffering-reduction laws which substantially improve conditions for animals under oppression by at least curtailing suffering without necessarily obtaining animal rights or proto-rights
Suffering-reduction laws that only try to secure rights or strong proto-rights for animals, excluding all other forms of suffering-reduction laws
Animal rights/vegan education as a short-term means of building long-term legal changes.
Sztybel claims that the third option is the best one since it is the least worst of all the other options, which do not free animals from speciesism, something that is morally wrong. Though it involves speciesism, it still gives out some benefits for animals, thus, indicating that it is not an ultimate wrong unlike the second option, which entrenches speciesism but does not benefit animals at all. The third option is seen as morally wrong because it involves complicity with speciesism. This is what causes the dilemma. Sztybel justifies this by reasoning out that rights are not fundamental, thus, its moral rightness lies in its end goal, which is securing goods and protections from harm. This is its rationale and that is the basis of Sztybel’s ethical claim. He does not reject the idea that there is complicity with speciesism. Sztybel believes that an advocacy, though it may involve complicity with actions morally wrong, can be justified as long as its ultimate end goal is morally right.

Factual Claim

            Sztybel (2007) claims that he favors laws that have the most concrete benefits for animals. With this, he uses a distinction between causation and conduciveness. Causation entails that a certain action results to a certain reaction. Conduciveness, on the other hand, does not entail that a certain reaction results from a specific action. In conduciveness, there is a possibility of reduction or regression wherein an action and reaction may happen simultaneously and lead to something that is worse than the primary action. For Sztybel (2007), welfarist norms favourably influence abolition. Conditions can exist without leading to a certain result favourable for animal welfarists. Conditions exist simultaneously with the aim of producing a culture that favors animal rights. This indicates that Sztybel’s claim focuses on how an action leads to a favourable result, pursuing a certain set of goals. Much the same as his example in Sweden’s animal rights laws, he explains that a set of actions are necessary to fulfil the long-term goal that produces a culture that favors animal rights over its exploitation. This does not mean, however, that these actions immediately result to a kindness culture for the animals. It is clear that he pursues, primarily, laws that are more specific to answer issues one by one rather than addressing the entire issue as a whole.

            Sztybel (2007) explains that Francoine’s fundamentalist platform for animal rights law seeks to abolish the institutionalized exploitation of animals, the treatment of animals exclusively as means to ends and insists on a claim against instrumental treatment. This indicates that Francoine’s proposals focus on placing value on animals, and not their profitable value, and that laws should not be a substitute form of exploitation. He believes that Francoine is short-sighted when it comes to his proposals. Francoine’s fundamentalist platforms focus on proto-rights and insists that the rights of animals today should not be jeopardized in order to reach the long-term goal of creating a kindness culture. Sztybel claims that the pragmatist view does not disregard the rights of animals today but it addresses animal issues in specific terms, advocating that 100% interest protection does not result to any legal process at all because it does not address the issues on a specific level. Focusing on the general and the entirety level will not be beneficial since this is a large-scale program that needs long-term planning. And in fulfilling the long-term goals, the laws should address first short-term goals that are specific in developing and improving the treatment of animals while not compromising the situation between the relationship of humans and animals.

            Sztybel also claims that Francoine’s pursuance of proto-rights can only protect one aspect of interest and leave another aspect completely vulnerable to exploitation. In the pragmatist perspective, it guarantees only part of the entire interest protection and through this, it will be able to achieve a larger part of acceptance and development of a kindness culture. He uses the example of guaranteeing 80% of freedom of movement for hens and the missing 20% is described as a lesser imperfection to tolerate than 100% (Sztybel, 2007). He indicates that partial fulfilment of interests is better than pursuing 100%, which is plainly impossible to achieve without rejecting an aspect of the whole situation of animal rights and interest protection.


            Sztybel points out in his paper that the pragmatist perspective of developing partial fulfilment of interests is better than Francoine’s proto-rights, which can ignore or can be blind-sighted in terms of looking into the generality and fullness of the situation. Francoine’s proposals entails 100% animal rights protection can be achievable when certain pragmatist views are used first to set the pace of developing the kindness culture. Sztybel claims that an entire interest protection and animal rights protection is not achievable although a kindness culture can be developed.

Works Cited

Sztybel, D. (2007). Animal Rights Law: Fundamentalism versus Pragmatism. Journal for Critical Animal Studies , Vol.5, Issue 1.